Part market, part food-court, part-izakaya and a whole lot of awesome, this is Hirome Ichiba!
Situated close to the castle in downtown Kōchi lies one of my favourite spots in the city and perhaps even the country. Hirome Ichiba is an ecclectic mix of clothes and souvenir shops, fresh produce stalls, restaurants and drinking holes brought together to create one open plan house of fun!
The long wooden benches and tables make for a very welcoming and open environment and as a result if you visit you’ll end up meeting and conversing with a wide range of locals and travellers all out to have a good time and drink with strangers.
The last time we were at Hirome Ichiba was the day after our Japanese wedding and the atmosphere was excellent. We met up with friends and family for lunch and most of us ended up staying until closing time. We met a range of characters from an elderly local grandmother who greeted us with mild sexual assault before buying us souvenirs, a couple of friends who travelled to Kōchi just to visit Hirome Ichiba and a group of middle-aged golf enthusiasts who regaled me of tales of their trips to Scotland and their appreciation of our whisky!
On my few visits, amongst other dishes, I’ve eaten chicken sashimi, katsuo no tataki (of course), karaage, chanbara-kai (sword-fighting shellfish), whale and very reluctantly, Natto. I also had my first (and last) frozen headed Kirin beer there and have enjoyed several local sakes.
If you are planning on visiting Japan, then there are many reasons to visit Shikoku and Kōchi in particular, but Hirome Ichiba for me is one of the top reasons to visit, particularly if you time the visit to coincide with the Yosakoi festival.
A wee bit more info on Hirome Ichiba by ex-pat Kōchi resident Nate Hill can be found here.